Recently I rewatched a movie that made 9-year-old me laugh so hard during the opening credits that my abs cramped up: Ace Ventura Pet Detective. While watching it as an adult, however, I realized some of the jokes and gags were seriously “problematic.”

It’s a word I hate using, because often I feel like it’s tossed around for people to just hate on something or victimize themselves or make a mountain out of a mole hill.

While I believe virtually no subject is off-topic in comedy, I also believe the way jokes are set up and their intent play a big part in whether or not the joke is actually offensive. If someone, for example, makes a joke about Muslims or the name Mustafa to make a valid point, then I wouldn’t be offended at all. But if the punchline is a comedian rattling off a lazy, pseudo-Arab/Indian accent for a cheap laugh, then I’d be super offended. 

It’s the difference between a comedian performing an exaggerated Chinese accent without a real joke behind it, and Russell Peters talking about a made-up scenario with Indians and Chinese competing for who could be cheaper. Both could be perceived as offensive, but you can tell Peters is doing it to make a greater point about different cultural values, whereas the other is just done for a room full of idiots who find it funny when someone from another country has an accent. Also, there’s a big difference between making fun of your own culture and someone else’s (Peters is of Anglo-Indian descent.)

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